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Hypocrisy’s Anecdote


”I cannot adequately express the horror I feel for a man who can be so base as to veil his hypocrisy under the cloak of religion, and state the base falsehood he has done.” ~ James K. Polk

We break from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, which yesterday included a discussion on the fruits of the spirit, to begin a multi-day trip through his Letter to the Ephesians, starting today with the opening words contained within the first ten verses (Ephesians 1:1-10). In what may very well be the takeaway line from this passage, Paul proclaims that “In Christ we have redemption by his Blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.”

For the people of Ephesus who were hearing this for the first time, it was an unquestionably radical message. It remains so today. When the prolific Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton was asked why he became Catholic, he replied “I wanted to get rid of my sins.” For Chesterton, for all of us really, emerging from the confessional was something of mini-baptism. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, one goes forth anew, unburdened and emboldened to “begin again,” as Saint Teresa of Avila would joyfully say to the young sisters in her charge on the heels of their priestly absolution. She would in fact wait outside the confessional to deliver this message personally.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 11:47-54), Jesus continues to denounce the Pharisees, focusing specifically on their hypocrisy. He calls them out for their alleged worship of God, when in reality their hearts are muddied with slander and murder. Jesus’ words prove to be prophetic as the Pharisees’ thoughts quickly turn to hostility. They immediately begin to plot their revenge on Jesus, seeking to trap him in his speech, an exercise that would of course prove to be fruitless. The simple fact of the matter is, they were hypocrites.

As Father Matthew Mary points out in his homily for EWTN this morning “Hypocrites think of themselves as having already achieved perfection and righteousness. They are filled with anger and hatred when their hypocrisy is brought to the surface instead of turning to self reflection, repentance, and conversion, which would be the proper response.” The Pharisees today are a perfect example of this disordered response made manifest. In fact the 11th Chapter of Luke’s Gospel is dotted with numerous examples of their hypocrisy.

In a recently delivered homily, Pope Francis explains that “A hypocritical attitude comes from the great liar, the devil. The devil is a great hypocrite… all other hypocrites are his heirs.” As this quote from Pope Francis suggests, hypocrisy is the very language of the devil. It is the language of evil that enters our hearts and is sewn by the Prince of Darkness himself. There is no truth in the devil. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar, the father of lies.

In condemning the Pharisees for the death of previous prophets as Jesus does today, he uses the word “generation” in a way that is different than tradition might dictate, that is to say in a chronological sense. The wicked and the faithless throughout human history comprise one “generation,” and their father is the devil. The good and faithful on the other hand comprise another generation and their Father is God, he who is the Father of all truth and goodness. Works of charity, mercy, and justice are the hallmarks of those who are members of the generation of God.

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Justification and self-flattery must give way to candid self examination. Saint Francis of Assisi offers some interesting insight into this. He says “Many people when they sin or receive an injury often blame the enemy or some neighbor. But this is not right. For each one has the real enemy in his own power; it is the body through which he sins. Self-examination always leads to repentance. Repentance leads to transformation.

In our honest dialogue with God, it is important to admit our proclivity towards concupiscence, hypocrisy, and evil. Doing so is an act of faith in and of itself in that it is a declaration of trust in God’s goodness, mercy, and ability to transform us. In turning to God, we acknowledge that He can help us. In being honest with God, from whom we cannot hide anything from anyway, we open ourselves up to his mercy and kindness; the devil’s power over us melts away. God’s ability to forgive and save is far more powerful then the forces of evil that are so profoundly prevalent today. The cultivation of a humble heart coupled with honest self reflection and repentance will lead to transformation and conversion.

It is the anecdote for hypocrisy.

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